Thursday, February 6, 2014
Mike Butler: It’s bribe-a-tribe day
Big dollar amounts are being bandied about after Prime Minister John Key used his main national day speech to bribe Ngapuhi, New Zealand’s biggest tribe, into settling their grievances with the Crown. It’s election year and the lolly scramble has just begun.
Key offered an interim financial payment to “incentivise” the 125,000-member tribe to settle quickly. Ngapuhi runanga chair Sonny Tau gave a figure of $500-$600-million as he responded.
In terms of scale, the largest tribal settlements to date are $170-million, and those were to Waikato-Tainui (40,083 members), Ngai Tahu (54.819), and Tuhoe (34,890). (1)
Why would Ngapuhi demand such a large amount? Were they treated more than three times worse, and did they suffer to a much greater extent? A clue may be found in advice from the Office of Treaty Settlements to claimants.
In explaining the factors that determine the size of a payment, known as the quantum, in a letter to claimants, the Treaty Settlements Office notes that primary factors include:
1. The amount of land “lost” in a claimant area,
2. The nature of alleged treaty breaches,
3. Benchmarks set by existing settlements of similar grievances.
Secondary factors include:
1. The population of the claimant group today,
2. Whether there are overlapping claims,
3. Any other special factors a claimant group thinks necessary.(2)
Note the use of the word “lost” to describe land in a tribe’s area that is no longer owned by the tribe. A more accurate word is “sold”. Ngapuhi forebears sold their land both since 1840 and before 1840.
Land sales in the north before 1840 were substantial. The Waitangi Tribunal’s National Overview report on Auckland provides a total of 491 such transactions in the area from the Auckland isthmus to Cape Reinga that were investigated by government land sale commissioners shortly after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.(3)
So what are Ngapuhi grievances?
The only grievance listed on the list that chiefs took to Queen Victoria in 1882 that could be connected to Ngapuhi was a war in the north waged by Hone Heke and Kawiti in 1845 against the government.(4) Heke and Kawiti were defeated. Ngapuhi had no land confiscated.
Ngapuhi claim that they did not cede sovereignty when Ngapuhi forebears signed the treaty. Unfortunately for that argument, at least 29 Ngapuhi chiefs signed the treaty on February 6, 1840.
They signed the treaty after a debate in which it was clear that the Queen and Governor would be superior to the chiefs. According to eye-witness William Colenso, a missionary, at that debate, chief Te Kemara showed what he understood about chiefs ceding sovereignty when he said: “’Yes; ' but for the Governor to be up and Te Kemara down -Governor high up, up, up, and Te Kemara down low”. (5)
Moreover, the British government gained the sovereignty over New Zealand not only through cession by treaty, but through proclamation, through occupation, and, if the defeats of tribes who took up arms against the government from 1845 through the 1860s is to be considered, by conquest.
Mr Tau’s demand for up to $600-million gives the appearance that Ngapuhi just wants money, and lots of it. From the Office of Treaty Settlements advice to claimants detailed above, we can now conclude that treaty settlements have little to do with actual treaty breaches by the government. They are simply pay-offs to tribes calculated by tribal population and area.
The Ngapuhi tribal area is less than one million hectares, occupied by only 13 percent of the Ngapuhi population. Most Ngapuhi live in South Auckland.
Key’s offer of an “on account” payment to settle with Ngapuhi looks like an election-year inducement. Ngapuhi theatrics and demands look like a negotiating ploy to crank up the dollars.
Waitangi Day 2014 will be remembered as “bribe a tribe day”.
1 2013 Quick Stats about Maori, http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-about-maori-english.aspx
2. Quantum Factors for He Toa Takatini, http://www.hetoatakitini.iwi.nz/uploads///Quantum_factors_for_He_Toa_Takitini_Letter-_5_September_2013.pdf
3. Old land claims, Rangahaua Whanui District 1, http://www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/waitangi-tribunal/documents/rangahaua-research-reports/auckland-part-1/view, p74
4. Struggle without end, Ranginui Walker, Penguin 1990, p162.
5. William Colenso's Authentic and Genuine History of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, http://www.waitangi.com/colenso/colhis1.html
at 5:59 PM